A joint venture was due to be signed in Beijing this week to transfer British technology so a Chinese university can build micro-satellites to provide early warning of disasters like the recent Yangtse floods.
China’s Tsinghua University last week bought the first of seven microsatellites for £3m from Surrey Satellite Technology of Guildford.
This will be built over the next 12 15 months by a team of eight Chinese scientists and Surrey specialists.
Called the Tsinghua-1, the 50kg satellite will be launched piggyback on a Chinese Long March rocket carrying a much larger satellite at the end of 1999.
Project manager Tim Butlin said the other six satellites would be assembled in China. ‘We don’t know what parts will be procured there and what parts we might send out. The idea is that they can build a Tsinghua-type satellite themselves,’ he added.
The microsatellites will offer high-resolution imaging for disaster monitoring. The satellite will also perform communications research in low earth orbit.
‘They are here to learn from our engineers,’ Butlin said. ‘In future we hope there will be developments with the two sides working together.’